Horticulture career focus: The gift of gardening from a craft gardener at Blarney Castle & Gardens


"The facilities in WIT were of huge benefit to me especially the library which provided me the right environment to get my assignments and study plans in order. As well as that, a lot of the practical subjects were run at Kildalton College where the lecturers were equally as helpful and the horticulture facilities there are top notch."

Aaron Brennan's advice to prospective students is WIT can help you identify and nurture what you have to offer the world of horticulture when you start the course

What course(s) did you study?

While attending Waterford Institute of Technology I completed the BSc in Horticulture before going on to complete the Add-on level 8 course in Land Management in Horticulture.

How long did it take to get a full-time job after graduation?

I gained full time employment as a Craft Gardener at Blarney Castle & Gardens within 3 months of finishing my degree.

What is your job? What does a typical week look like for you?

I am a Craft Gardener and I ensure the gardens are kept at a quality standard for Blarney’s visitors. Our gardening team consisting of Horticulturists, an arborist, groundsman and a stonemason. With the changing of the seasons and with the continued growth and development of the estate, no one week is ever the same at Blarney and this ensures Head Gardener Adam Whitbourn has us all well and truly on our toes!

One of the joys of working at Blarney is that we are each given an area to be responsible for and for me it is the Pinetum. Not only has the Pinetum an amazing atmosphere and an abundance of wildlife but it also has a large collection of rare and unusual trees and working there has helped me to learn and to build on my knowledge of trees and to get more familiar with their characteristics.

There are always new skills to learn when working as a Craft gardener. Recently I completed a City & Guilds chainsaw course so that I can assist with work on trees in the estate.

What do you like about your job?

Each day I get to work with a different member of the team and for me that’s something I enjoy. Everybody has something to offer both in terms of experience and horticultural knowledge, but the main thing is everybody is willing to give advice and to share their knowledge. Every day I learn something new. We also have great banter which is important as it helps us to get through some of those long windy and wet winter days!

What did you like about the BSc. in Horticulture course in WIT?

What I enjoyed most about the course was the choice of modules available. I feel it gave me a great understanding of the various areas within the horticulture sector and as a result helped me decide which was most suited to me. Whether you enter the course unsure of what area to venture into for a career, or if you aim to set up your own business or go further down the route of plant science/further studies, I feel the course will provide solid and necessary foundations for a future career. The delivery of the modules and the expertise of the lecturers played an important role in this.

Where did you do your work placement?

I spent the duration of my work placement here in Blarney Castle. It was through this placement that I got to know the team here in Blarney and I enjoyed my time here as a student so much so that I found myself back here! During my work placement I did lot of the same work as I do today, and I enjoyed it a lot which reassured me that this was the career I wanted.

What things did you learn on the course which are invaluable in your job today?

One of the things I most enjoyed about the Horticulture course in WIT was that it gave me a good understanding of plant science, how plants grow and develop, and why certain plants are suited to particular environments and climates. The plant identification classes also helped me to develop my own personal database of plants which has been invaluable because now I know that most plants have a preference for certain soil, or growing conditions.

What life skills did your time in WIT give you?

I felt the structure of the course helped me to gel quite quickly with my classmates. Everybody was eager to learn and as a result I felt we developed into more of a team than a class. The lecturers were also of great assistance and if ever I had an issue with something it was always nice to know there were available to help. WIT helped me build a good network of friends while also making me feel much more confident.

What advice would you give to a potential student of horticulture?

What I would recommend for potential students is that from day one be sure to interact with classmates and lecturers because by doing so you can work through any difficulties and develop long term friendships. Also, don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. While studying Horticulture in WIT I had the opportunity to meet and develop friendships. One of the things I realised early on was that everybody had different interests and objectives and the diverse range of subjects provided by WIT accommodated for these interests while the expertise of the lecturers gave me and many others a good in depth look at our areas of interest.

Horticulture is vast and can accommodate for your interests whether you are a lover of nature or a lover of plants. Horticulture makes you appreciate the little things and how we can (and should) work hand in hand with nature and science. I would also tell prospective students of horticulture that you have something to offer the world of horticulture and WIT can help you identify and nurture it so when you start the course, you don’t need to know the exact job you want after college.

What advice would you give to a parent of a horticulture student?

Most parents don’t realise that horticulture is full of opportunity and the career paths are diverse - this is something that cannot be stressed enough. Horticulture is an industry which continues to grow and can offer your child the opportunity to work in a happy and healthy environment and also the opportunity to travel the world, possibly even before graduating because many of my classmates travelled to parts of North America, the UK and further afield while undertaking their work placement module.

Like any course, it is important for students to apply themselves but having the course run and adopted to the interests of WIT’s horticulture students makes it easy for students to do so. Small class sizes meant that I was able to ask more questions and to get assistance from lecturers whenever I had difficulties. The facilities in WIT were of huge benefit to me especially the library which provided me the right environment to get my assignments and study plans in order. As well as that, a lot of the practical subjects were run at Kildalton College where the lecturers were equally as helpful and the horticulture facilities there are top notch.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (Kildalton College)
Bachelor of Science in  Horticulture (National Botanic Gardens)
Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Land Management in Horticulture

Featured News